D making its opponents disappear
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 6, 2002
ATLANTA -- Twenty-one points yielded in the past three games, no points allowed in two games on the road, turnovers that produced three touchdowns and a safety.
Have the Bucs ever played better defense?
Not since their NFC Championship Game loss to the St. Louis Rams at the end of the 1999 season.
"I called it the Bermuda Triangle, at least when I played against them. I've seen people go in there and not come out," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "(Derrick) Brooks and (Warren) Sapp and Booger (McFarland) and (John) Lynch. Those guys are the Bermuda Triangle. Those guys are clearly the heart and soul here and those guys are playing better. I think they can even play better as the season unfolds. I'd be disappointed if they didn't. I think they've always had a certain swagger to them.
"But I think everyone around them has stepped it up. I think Simeon Rice here in his second year is more acclimated to the style. Then Shelton Quarles comes in here and gives us some real athletic versatility at the middle linebacker position. Dexter Jackson's not a young player anymore. He's experienced. B.K. (Brian Kelly) has established himself as a corner, and Ronde (Barber) is playing as good as any corner going right now. You add all that up and you should have a little extra swagger. There's some real good vibes going there."
A word of caution before today's game. The Bucs' four opponents this season have a combined 4-11 record. But confidence is high in the defensive huddle.
"It's pretty darn good, it really is," Lynch said. "There's little indications you can see with us. Last week I knew it was on, I think, in that first series. Akili (Smith) said something to Warren and he came back to the huddle, "Do you believe he said that?' I said, "I can't believe it. Go get him.' Sure enough, he had that head shaking all game long. There's just a communication. Like I said, so many different guys are making plays."
THANKS AND GOODBYE: As a long snapper, Mike Solwold sees the game upside down.
But there is something that looks even more askew about his injury situation.
Solwold suffered a severe ankle sprain and torn ligaments on the first extra point of the Bucs' 35-7 win at Cincinnati.
Despite what was an incredibly painful injury, he played the remainder of the game on special teams, snapping for six punts and four other extra points.
After the game, Solwold was on crutches. The next day, his leg was fitted for a cast and he learned his season was over.
What makes Solwold's story seem unfair is that the structure of his one-year contract enables the Bucs to pay him roughly half his salary the remainder of the season. Although he could be healthy in five or six weeks, Solwold's status prohibits him from playing with the Bucs.
"It's tough," Solwold said. "I'm sure by continuing to play, I probably did more damage to my ankle. But they kept telling me I had to go.
"I'm not complaining. I'll still receive a lot of money. But it'd be a nice gesture, since I gave them everything I had, if they would pay me for the remainder of the season."
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